One of the ways that babies learn about their surroundings and the great big world around is by exploring with their hands and mouths. These activities teach them about taste, texture, sound, and shape among many others. Exploring in this way is important for their development, but as parents we are concerned about how safe their toys are. There are good reasons to choose natural baby toys since they are the safer option.
These are toys made from natural and possibly organic sources, such as wood, bamboo, cotton, and wool.
This is in large part because many conventional toys are made of plastic and it is becoming increasingly well known that certain plastics can be unsafe. According to CHECnet.org “phthalates are added to PVC (polyvinyl chloride) to make it soft and flexible. Some phthalates have been linked to cancer, kidney and liver damage, harm to developing reproductive organs, and premature breast development in baby girls. Inhaling these chemicals can also worsen asthma in children.” PVC itself is also dangerous. The manufacturing and disposal of this substance creates dioxins, one of the most toxic man-made substances known.
Cloth toys can also be potentially unsafe if the cotton they are made with has been grown with pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Nearly half of the most commonly used pesticides used to grow cotton have been labeled “probable” carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Due the small size and vulnerability of babies and toddlers and their propensity to “mouth” or cuddle everything it is best not to expose them to harsh chemicals that could pose a serious health risk. Natural baby toys are the better alternative.
Wooden or bamboo toys are natural materials and they are much more durable than their plastic counterparts, creating less waste and less need to constantly replace broken toys. Wood can be harvested from sustainable forests and bamboo is a grass that grows to maturity in only four years, so both options are better for the planet too. Look for toys that have been painted with natural, plant based dyes. Also, since quality wooden toys cost more than plastic in most cases, you can try and save money by picking them up second hand at thrift stores and yard sales.
Organic cloth toys and dolls are chemical free and if you can sew or knit then you can even make some of these yourself. There are many patterns available online for cloth dolls and doll clothes as well as faux food for little play kitchens that you can knit yourself. Just pick up some organic cotton or organic wool and you can create a family heirloom that is sure to entertain. And of course the best part is that they will be natural and safe.
Resources for Organic Baby Toys: